People call him the “motor of the offense,” the “heartbeat of the team,” and “sparkplug of the first line.” He’s the hustleholic every team wants and wishes they had, and the type of player every team hates to play against. Combined with skill, speed, and tenacity, this player leads by example and pushes an entire team to skate faster and play harder.
I’m talking about none other than Viktor Arvidsson.
Since his return from the IR, the 25 year old Swedish right winger has rejuvenated the Predators offense, altering their lethargic and lackadaisical efforts for winning to intentional and energized performances on the ice. Arvidsson’s midseason debut and the recent success of the Predators directly coincide each other- they’re playing better because he’s back. Arvidsson’s size, (5’9, 180 lbs), may not intimidate you, but he owns a tremendous responsibility for the overall success of the Predators.
There are many fortunate events that brought Arvidsson to Nashville, and his path to the NHL represents his style of play: he never gave up, and always hustled.
How Did He Get Here?
Arvidsson made his professional hockey debut in 2009 with Skellefteå AIK, one of the oldest teams in the Swedish Hockey League. For development purposes, he played in the J20 SuperElit league between 2009 and 2011, and scored fifteen goals in the regular season and five in the postseason during that tenure. Arvidsson was briefly called up to the SEL (Swedish Elite League), but was sent back down to the junior league after a scoreless three games.
He fought for a regular spot on the Elite team, and eventually found his groove in the 2012-2013 season. Scoring twelve points in the regular season and six in the postseason, Arvidsson earned a regular spot for the 2013-2014 season. His last season of Swedish hockey was his best- he netted sixteen goals and tallied forty points in fifty games. Along with a successful regular season, he also contributed to two Swedish championship teams in 2013 and 2014.
He built himself an outstanding resume in Sweden- representing his country, he participated in the U-17 Hockey Challenge and the Hlinka Gretzy Cup tournament in 2010, the IIHF World U18 Championship in 2011, and the World Junior Cup in 2013. Among his World Junior Cup teammates was Filip Forsberg, a younger and bigger forward who’d been drafted by the Washington Capitals in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.Embed from Getty Images
Arvidsson was overlooked by forwards such as Forsberg. Whether size or skill or both made teams pass him over, he kept working and was eventually picked. In the 2014 NHL Draft, Arvidsson was picked 112th overall by the Nashville Predators. He quickly became a powerhouse with the Milwaukee Admirals, scoring 55 points in 70 games.
Then, as the 2014-2015 season was drawing to a close, Colin Wilson, one of the key starting forwards for Nashville, hurt himself in practice. Arvidsson got the call, and made his NHL debut on March 21, 2015. Wearing #38, he played six games with the Predators, and, like he’d done in Sweden and Milwaukee, became a starter the next year.
New City, Same Arvy
Arvidsson scored his first goal against Cam Ward and the Carolina Panthers on October 8th, 2015. Seth Jones, one of the key defensemen at the time, fired a wrist shot from the point, and Arvidsson managed to get his stick blade on the puck before the shot reached Ward. He was recalled to Milwaukee for November, primarily because he needed more playing time. Once brought up to the big stage once again, he rode in the middle of the pack in terms of scoring with eight goals and eight assists. Nashville earned the top Wild Card spot and faced the Anaheim Ducks in the 2015-2016 playoffs, and Arvidsson was along for the ride.
Nashville barely handled the Ducks in seven games, and their next opponent, San Jose, had blown through the Los Angeles Kings. Things weren’t looking too good for the Predators when the Sharks grabbed a commanding 2-0 lead over the series. Nashville clawed their way back to put the series at 3-2. Game Six of the 2015-2016 Western Conference was arguably the biggest game of Nashville’s entire history (up to that point, of course).
San Jose’s Chris Tierney netted two goals in the first period, and it looked as if the Predators were defeated already. Roman Josi brought the game back to 2-1 thanks to a lucky bounce into the San Jose net, and Ryan Johansen followed with a backhander to tie the game. Logan Couture later scored on an imbalanced Pekka Rinne past the midway point of the third period, but thankfully, Colin Wilson responded and sent Nashville into an overtime, the second one at Bridgestone Arena that series.
In the first two minutes of overtime, both teams exchanged possession and nothing more. Miikka Salomaki innocently flipped the puck out of the Nashville zone, and along came Arvidsson. Retrieving the loose puck, he raced into the Sharks’ zone, backhanded a shot over Martin Jones’ shoulder, and won the game in dramatic fashion.
Nashville eventually lost the series in Game Seven, but Arvidsson’s name was branded into the Predators’ identity. The next year was his breakout year.
A Lot Has Changed In Two Years
Arvidsson was considered a bottom six NHL forward with potential before the 2016-2017 season happened. He was good, but his potential was shadowed by the blockbuster P.K. Subban/Shea Weber trade, and the official christening of the new captain, Mike Fisher. So, once the actual hockey started, Arvidsson thrust himself into a new light.
Teaming up with center Ryan Johansen and a familiar face in Filip Forsberg, Arvidsson netted 31 goals and totaled 61 points in the regular season. Among those goals was his first career hat-trick against the Florida Panthers. At the end of the year, he tied his line mates in both total points and goals.
Then came the Stanley Cup playoff run.
It was Arvidsson’s lone goal in Game One against the Blackhawks that pushed them to a 1-0 win in Chicago. He tacked on two more assists, and scored the empty netter in Game Four. He started the series with a goal, and ended the series with a goal. Although he wouldn’t find the back of the net for another sixteen games, he assisted his teammates throughout the next two series. He swiftly delivered the killing blow in Game Four against the Pittsburgh Penguins on a breakaway chance.
Nashville came up short to the Penguins in six games, but it was nothing of Arvidsson’s fault. In spite of a spectacular regular season and equally impressive postseason, most experts speculated his breakout year was a fluke. David Poile thought differently, as he rewarded Arvidsson a seven-year, $29.75 million dollar contract. With a new contract, he donned Colin Wilson’s old number- #33.
He once again proved all the critics wrong with 29 goals and 32 assists in the 2017-2018 regular season. In the postseason, he surpassed his previous postseason goal total by lighting the lamp five times in thirteen postseason games, including three against the Winnipeg Jets. After the NHL season was over, Arvidsson, along with Forsberg and defenseman Mattias Ekholm, won the Ice Hockey World Championship for Sweden.
Two 61 point seasons back-to-back showed critics he wasn’t to be underestimated, as the point totals, energy and passion he brought to the Nashville offense made his point fairly eloquently. He tied Forsberg, a younger player who beat him to the NHL, in goals the year he broke out, then beat him out the next year.
Where Is He Now?
Now that he’s established, Arvidsson has a reputation of withstanding punishment in front of the net, creating individual chances, and pressing the Predators to score. He keeps defenses on their toes, hustles every shift, and somehow manages to contribute every game. His trademark, between-the-legs move has defensemen stepping up at the blueline, which allows him to skate right past them.
This year was in the making of Arvidsson’s best season yet- he had thirteen points in thirteen games, including three multi-goal games. Arvidsson absolutely dominated against San Jose on October 23rd, as he netted two goals and assisted Craig Smith.
He sustained a lower body injury against Vegas that took him out of the lineup for three games. He left almost as soon as he returned, as a broken thumb ripped him from the lineup for almost six weeks. Arvidsson had been known as the heartbeat of the team prior to this year, but it was ever apparent in his absence. He was the number two goal scorer on Nashville’s squad for nearly four weeks after he’d been benched, and Forsberg, the leading goal scorer (who scored eleven goals with Arvidsson in the lineup), only netted three goals without Arvidsson- that’s the kind of impact he had.
Arvidsson came back on December 27th, and since then, he’s grabbed six points in six games. His individual effort are spreading through the ranks, as bottom six version of himself, Rocco Grimaldi (“Rocket Man”), has gone on a tear of his own, as well as his fellow countryman, Mattias Ekholm.
The best part about Arvidsson? Some folks outside of Nashville still don’t know him or respect him as the dominant player he is, like they do with Subban or Forsberg. Which is absolutely fine.
He’s proved everybody wrong before, and he’s bound to do it again.
Maybe I’m just fond of seeing a short guy do something that bigger guys can’t. Did I mention I’m 5’9?